Sometimes the best returns-to-form are the most obvious ones. And after the out-of-character commercial-bid debacle Universal Mind Control, the easiest way for Common to win back the alienated faithful who still treasure Resurrection would be to lure back the production mind that helped build it. That’s exactly what The Dreamer, the Believer does, bringing No I.D. to the boards again to recapture the vibe last heard on 1997′s One Day It’ll All Make Sense. While some of the sonic choices are a bit glossier than the blueprint from 14 years back — “Blue Sky” is built around a familiar E.L.O. pop classic, and cuts like “Cloth” and “Windows” glow with the futurist opulence of late-’00s Kanye — it’s also a welcome update of No I.D.’s heavy-hitting soul.
Common accordingly sounds more comfortable on this album than he has at any point since 2005′s Be. He’s found a way to reconcile his silver-screen status and his recent notoriety as “Obama’s favorite gangsta rapper” in a way that’s a bit more grounded. His familial ties remain crucial (“Pops Belief”), his positivity spills far outside the confines of the VIP section (“Celebrate”), and even his fantasy-woman scenario (“Ghetto Dreams”) has an air of domesticity to it. This album has already made him a couple new adversaries — Maya Angelou wasn’t thrilled to find her voice used on a leadoff track that drops n-bombs, and Drake got caught up in the soft-rapper callout “Sweet” — but that takes a backseat to the potential for this album to win back fans.